The marquee went up in Lillington Thursday marking the arrival of Mermaid Point, the new name for Howard’s Barbecue, one of the town’s oldest restaurants.
Owners Ilia and Megan Smirnov made the name change official on Facebook, saying the new moniker is the culmination of months of changes at the restaurant which include an updated menu, new patio overlooking the river and the U.S. 421 bridge and a new bar, which opened to the public on Dec. 7.
“We thought it was the right time for the name change after all the other changes we’ve made in the past year,” said Ilia Smirnov, who moved to the U.S. from Russia in 2002. “We also own Cape Fear Adventures [the next-door kayak and canoe rental business, and we thought the new name tied in well with that and with our location along the river.”
The name is inspired by the real Mermaid Point near the Lee and Chatham county line where the Haw and Deep rivers meet to become the Cape Fear River. The Rant wrote about the legendary spot earlier this year in an article on Lee County’s little-known island — McKay Island, a half-mile long piece of land in the middle of the Cape Fear about two miles southeast of Mermaid Point.
As stated in that article, before the Buckhorn Dam raised water levels, the confluence of those rivers gave way to a sandbar that — legend has it — was a popular spot for mermaids who’d swim 200 miles from the coast to relax on the sand and rocks and wash the salt from their hair.
The restaurant’s new logo depicts a mermaid resting on a river rock enjoying a glass of wine.